Keane has little-known pension
Published by Florida Times-Union on July 28, 2012.
Since the late 1990s, Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund Executive Director John Keane has been signed up for a pension created for him by the fund with little outside notice.
The benefit, which could mean as much as $200,000 a year when he retires again, comes atop the roughly $60,000 pension now being paid yearly to Keane in addition to his $283,000-a-year salary as the pension fund's executive director.
In 1990, he retired after 28 years with the fire department.
Receiving one pension and earning another isn't uncommon in city government — but in Keane's case, it seemed all but unknown that he even was getting the second benefit.
Both former City Council auditor Bob Johnson and current council auditor Kirk Sherman said they were unaware of the existence of the pension program, which only covered a handful of fund employees, until this month.
"It was a little bit of a surprise, " Sherman said. "It seems like it would have been reported."
Sherman said it also appears that the pension may be a better deal than the one being received by members of the fund Keane directs, because the size of the pension isn't capped at 80 percent. The pension also has a higher rate of accrual, according to documents reviewed by pension fund foe Curtis Lee, a lawyer, although Keane said he believes it accrues at the same rate.
The pension was set up years ago when fund employees who had worked elsewhere in the city were told they couldn't join any of the city's pension funds nor the state pension system. Typically pension funds are set up by the City Council or Legislature, Sherman said, not simply by a board of trustees.
Keane is the sole still-working member of the fund's pension program. Two other employees had been enrolled in it; one is now retired and receiving benefits and the other - assistant fund administrator Dick Cohee - died this year, with his widow now receiving benefits.
If possible, Keane said, he would have joined the state system — as have city retirees like Sheriff John Rutherford, who also is receiving a pension from his years on the force — which does not require a contribution. Keane kicks in 7 percent of his salary for his pension.
Little seemed to be known of the "Senior Staff Voluntary Retirement Plan, " whose existence was officially "recognized for the first time" in a recently released actuarial study of the Police and Fire Pension Fund.
According to that document, the plan has $2.3 million in assets, with the money being invested along with the Police and Fire Fund assets. The larger fund has $927.3 million in assets.
The Senior Staff plan is similar to the city's three better-known funds - for general employees, corrections officers and police office and firefighters - in that participants accrue a percentage of their salary each year.
Unlike the other plans, though, the plan is not capped at 80 percent of final average pay, Sherman said. State law does forbid pensions from paying more than 100 percent of pay, though.
With his annual compensation having been raised to $283,000 this year, Keane would get about $170,000 a year in pension if he retired next month. That number could jump to close to $200,000 if he stays a year or two longer.
Stacking the pensions isn't an issue, said Bobby Deal, a Jacksonville Sheriff's Office assistant chief and chairman of the five-member pension board.
"It's no different than a person who retired from the city and then ran for City Council, " he said.
Retired police officers working for Duval County Public Schools or the Jacksonville Aviation Authority, retired teachers working for city government and other public employees who switch from one form of public work to another typically receive one pension while earning another one.
"It's reasonable to have some kind of compensation for performing in that role, " Deal said.
City Council Finance Chairman John Crescimbeni was less understanding.
"I was shocked and that's an understatement, " Crescimbeni said. "It underlines my belief that the pension fund is out of touch with being fiduciarily responsible for the fund."
Things will change, the councilman said, if he can get the law concerning how the pension fund board is appointed changed.
Efforts to do so through an ordinance - which would have the council appoint three of the five board members, rather than the two it does now - were shot down by the state, but Crescimbeni is now trying to push the Legislature to make the change.
Any changes to the board makeup, though, are likely to have no impact on Keane's pension, which he has been paying into for more than a decade.
Plus, it's unknown how much longer he'll be executive director of the fund, anyway. Keane, 69, had talked about retiring next month, wrapping up more than 50 years of service to the city, including seven as a police officer. Then, Cohee died unexpectedly and Keane decided to say on.
Eventually, though, Keane will step down and begin drawing his second pension, something he'll have no qualms about.
"We're a pension fund, " he said. "We'd be hard pressed to say you shouldn't have a pension."